Currently viewing the tag: "St. Joseph’s College"

PFC John Little, Emmitsburg

KIA in the Liberation of Bizory

by Richard D. L. Fulton

John William Little was born on December 19, 1910, to parents John William and Minie Little, and resided on Frederick Street, Emmitsburg, Maryland, and had two sisters, Valerie and Anna, and three brothers, Robert, Roy, and James.

James was included as one of the brothers by a write-up that appeared in The (Frederick) News on March 12, 1945. However, James is not mentioned in the 1930 census. The census lists the Little’s three brothers as Robert, Roy, and Charles.

According to his draft card and enlistment records that Little had filled out when he was 90, he indicated that he was employed at St. Joseph’s College as a fireman before entering service, and that, regarding his education, he had attended “grammar school.”

Little was enlisted at Fort George G. Meade on April 3, 1942, and given the rank of private. He was subsequently stationed at Camp Cook, California, and Camp Chaffee, Oklahoma, before going overseas (at age 34) and was a member of a tank crew in the 68th Tank Battalion, 6th Armor Division, in General George S. Patton, Jr.’s Third Army.

Little was given leave in December 1943, to return home, following the death of his father, to attend the funeral.

The 6th Armor Division entered the war via Utah Beach, Normandy, July 19, 1944, ultimately fighting its way through Northern France, Central Europe, and finally, the Ardennes.

He was injured in November 1944, when the tank in which he was traveling was knocked out by enemy fire, resulting in his being wounded in the face and left leg. The Gettysburg Times Reported on January 30, 1945, that “He was able to able to return to action shortly thereafter… after the medic treated him.”

Little wrote his last letter home on December 27, 1944, stating that “he was well, and expecting to be to be sent to some other country, which he could not identify, within a short time,” according to The Gettysburg Times.

That “some other country” would be Belgium, and Little would soon find himself and 6th Armor Division the rolling towards Bastogne, a Belgian city that the German troops were in the process of laying siege to, as part of an over effort ordered by Adolf Hitler to attack allied forces that were slowly griding their way towards Germany – an overall engagement that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The Battle of the Bugle would become Hitler’s last stand before his 12-year-long “1,000 Year Reich” began to implode from the allies tearing into it from all directions.

The German siege of Bastogne was ultimately broken by the U.S. forces, including the 6th Armor Division, during seven days of battle, from December 20 to December 27, 1944. In January, 1945, the U.S. forces were ordered to begin driving off the German troops that remained in the area.

As a part of that effort, the 6th Armor Division was ordered forward to take the village of Bizory (sometime misspelled as Bixory on some web sites) away from its German occupiers. Bizory lies about 2.6 miles northeast of Bastogne.

The village was soon liberated, and the 6th Armor Division was solely credited with accomplishing the objective. Unfortunately, Little, who would make his final stand in the fight to liberate Bizory, was initially declared missing in action on January 8, 1945. He was 34 at that time. Little was shortly thereafter reclassified as killed in action. But it would appear that Little’s body was never recovered. His name is listed on the “Tablets of the Missing” in the Ardennes American Military Cemetery, Neuville-en-Condroz, Arrondissement de Liège, Liège, Belgium.

Little was awarded the Purple Heart W/Cluster and was also posthumously promoted to private first class.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army public domain

PFC John William Little, Photo Courtesy of

James Rada Jr.

It’s 1818, and a shipment of straw bonnets has just arrived at Sis. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s free school in Emmitsburg. The young girls sit in their school room decorating their bonnets with ribbon as they talk about their lives, whether she is a daughter of a farming family in town or the granddaughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country.

The 1818 Experience at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg is a living history experience at the Stone Farmhouse and White House on the grounds.

At the 1750 farmhouse, you meet living history interpreters, portraying Sisters Sally Thompson and Bridgette Farrow, who take you on a tour of the first permanent home in Emmitsburg for Seton and her sisters. They show you where the small home was added onto and the room where Seton slept and the first small chapel for the sisters.

It was also in this house that Seton founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s on July 31, 1809.

At the White House, a class of young girls is comprised of girls from town families and those who are boarding at the school. This is the building where the first free Catholic school for girls was founded, and it eventually grew into St. Joseph’s College.

An interpreter portraying Sis. Elizabeth explained that many of the boarders came from cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore because Mother Seton had “connections” in those cities.

“They knew their daughters could get a good education here and good skills needed to start a household,” Sis. Elizabeth said.

The 1818 Experience also allows you to watch the girls have fun with outdoor activities and take French lessons.

“Everything we can control, we try to keep period,” said Claire Bodine, group visits coordinator at the Seton Shrine.

The program makes uses of the junior history interpreters, a relatively new program at the shrine that trains youth in living history.

“They take workshops and classes to learn why what they do is important,” explained Bodine. “They also do instructional shadowing with experienced interpreters to learn how it is done.”

Bernadette Hahn, age 10, plays Catherine Walters, a student at the school. When her mom first signed her up for the program, all she knew was it had something to do with history. Now, after learning more about Walters and playing her during living history activities, Bernadette said, “I love it.”

Although the program chose a bad year because it had to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, it will be returning in the spring. The living history interpreters will be participating in the Candlelight Tours this month from December 11-19. These tours will take you into the homes on the grounds that are decorating for the holidays during the early 1800s. Visitors will learn about the Christmas traditions from Mother Seton’s time and can partake in hands-on activities.

Photos by James Rada, Jr.

Junior history interpreters get ready to play students at the White House at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg.

Living history interpreters play sisters Sally Thompson and Bridgette Farrow at the Stone House at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg.

1971: The Mount Goes Co-Ed

by James Rada, Jr.

Although Mount St. Mary’s University was named for a woman, she wouldn’t have been able to attend the college until 1971. It was only in its 164th year that the college decided to admit female students.

Some females from nearby St. Joseph’s College had been attending a limited number of classes at the Mount beginning in 1970. The two colleges had entered into a cooperative agreement that allowed students from either school to take a class at the other school if it wasn’t offered at their home college. The schools even provided transportation between the two campuses to aid the students. During the 1970-71 school year, 119 men from the Mount attended one or more classes at St. Joseph’s, and 100 women from St. Joseph’s attended one or more classes at the Mount.

While the agreement seemed to address the educational reasons for the Mount going co-educational, it didn’t address the cultural or financial issues.

St. Joseph’s College announced that it would close in 1973. This caused concern at Mount St. Mary’s, which had also seen its enrollment dropping. The school had 1,100 students during the 1970-71 school year.

“We are, of course, saddened by the Saint Joseph announcement but we do not feel that the wave of bleak prophecy which has pervaded our own campus is justified. Our situations are in no way similar even though we face the same serious problems of most of the nation’s private colleges,” Mount President John J. Dillon Jr. said during a speech.

In June of 1971, it was announced that the Mount would begin admitting women as non-resident students beginning with the 1971-72 school year. They would be admitted as resident students the following year.

To ensure that students from St. Joseph’s College wouldn’t be delayed in their graduation because of the transition, the Mount also waived some of the curriculum requirements at the Mount for students who needed it, according to the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

While admitting female students helped the women of St. Joseph’s College, it also helped the Mount, which had been seeing fewer applications.

“I feel that the tragedy at Saint Joseph can make us a stronger college if we all work in that direction,” Dillon said. “Mount St. Mary’s is, after all, your college.”

The Mount student body celebrated the decision. David Fielder wrote in the Mountain Echo, “This year, however, we have witnessed the emergence of the Mount into the twentieth century with the administration’s radical new policy concerning co-education. We actually have female names listed in the registrar’s office, and, come next year, Mounties may even find men and women living near each other within the campus grounds. Thus one might conclude that we’ve been granted the other half of what it takes to have a student body.”

While the males were certainly happy to see women on campus, the Mountain Echo pointed out that it was a good academic decision for the school. According to the newspaper, in 1969, 40 colleges and universities had gone co-ed. It was a move being made to attract high-caliber students, of which, 81 percent said in a Princeton University survey that they wanted co-educational schools.

However, not everyone was happy. Women who were losing their college with the closure of St. Joseph’s College lead the way with this group. One woman wrote a letter against the move in The Valley Echo called “Better Dead than Co-Ed.”

The overlapping between the admittance of female students and the closing of Mount St. Mary’s allowed for a gradual transition. Today, women make up the majority of the student body (55 percent) at the Mount.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice were meant to be together. Some of the family members joke that their marriage was an arranged one. Earl and Gene first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont, from which, the wall paper, now in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, came.  Their mothers—Jessie (Rouzer) Matthews and Helen (Creager) Rice—grew up as next-door neighbors, and were visiting their childhood homes with their first born on the same weekend, sometime in 1924—when someone snapped the above picture. It must have been love at first sight, because they grew up separated by a mountain range and thirty-five miles. They would see each other on occasion during these kinds of weekend visits and dated during their teens and early twenties. They mostly double-dated—the only way Jessie found acceptable—and have many fond memories of those times. Earl sometimes got to borrow his mother’s Lincoln Zephyr, so they got to date in style. Mostly, he came in the Model A that he and his lifelong friend, Henry Steiger, owned together.

After their courtship, they were engaged, and Earl was off to fight in WWII, training to be a bombardier on the B-29, the most advanced warplane of its time. Gene had earlier graduated from St. Joseph’s College, with a major in home economics and a minor in physics. Her first and only teaching job was at Emmitsburg High School, teaching physics. One of the classes she taught was engine basics.

Not being able to stand the idea of being separated, Earl and Gene decided to marry in California, where Earl was training at Victorville Army Air Base. Gene quit her job and got ready to travel west. Francis Matthews brought his daughter by train on the 2,500 mile trip to bring these two together for their seventy-plus year journey. In keeping with the good customs and scarcities at the time of war, Earl shared a room with Francis the night before the wedding, which he often jokingly asks, “How many men have done that?”  They were married in San Bernardino, California, on February 24, 1945. Francis, after giving away his and Jessie’s most precious daughter, travelled alone back to Emmitsburg.

Earl and Gene lived for a time in California, then onto various assignments, including Pecos, Texas, where these East Coast kids had to contend with such things as spiders and West Texas dust storms.   Earl and his crew had to travel separately on a troop train, while the wives followed with one of his fellow officer’s mother as a chaperone, another sign of a different time. Gene made some lifelong friends, with many of the wives demonstrating the love that has endeared her to all those around her.  Only a short time after their marriage, Earl and his crew were assigned to their B-29 in the South Pacific Island of Tinian. They had to travel on a troop ship to meet up with their aircraft.  Gene headed back home.

At the war’s end, they settled outside Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where Earl worked at his family’s goldfish farm. In 1952, he decided to take his dedicated wife and two boys, Earl A. Rice III (Gus) and Robert “Scott” Rice, to Emmitsburg to work for Gene’s father, Francis, whose business was struggling at the time. In 1954, they were blessed with a daughter, Mary Ann Rice Clever. Earl’s efforts helped to save the business, for which Francis was always grateful. They have lived in Emmitsburg for the rest of their marriage.

Their time in Emmitsburg during the 50s, 60s, and 70s were dedicated to raising their children, instilling great values in them, and to running a business. As is the case for many marriages, theirs sometimes took work. These efforts were done with their sense of humor and knowing each other to the core. As an example, one time, when the family wanted to do something that Earl wasn’t supporting, Gene said, “Wait until it’s your father’s idea.” She was right.

Their years together blessed them with three children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Those of us who have known them are likewise truly blessed.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont…destiny bringing them together.

Young Boy Rescues Friend from Runaway Rail

Emmitsburg-RR-005-JAKJoseph Flautt Frizell was walking along the tracks of the Emmitsburg Railroad one evening in May 1922 with some friends. They were goofing around, as teenage boys are known to do, as they approached the station located on South Seton Avenue.

The Emmitsburg Railroad had been incorporated on March 28, 1868. It connected Emmitsburg to Thurmont by rail, and from there to other communities via the Western Maryland Railway. Besides making it easier for townspeople to travel to places like Baltimore, it also provided a convenient way for students to arrive at St. Joseph’s College and Mount Saint Mary’s College. The railroad was more than seven miles long and opened for passenger service on November 22, 1875.

Frizell and his friends saw a baggage car approaching them. Then they noticed another local youth, Paul Humerick, on the front of the baggage car. He had apparently jumped aboard hoping to catch a free ride, probably destined to the station in downtown Emmitsburg, which marked the end of the line.

What Humerick hadn’t noticed was that the baggage car had detached itself from the rest of the train and was coasting down the incline in the tracks. The boys on the ground called for Humerick to get off the car, but he ignored them, apparently not recognizing the danger.

“Quick as a flash young Frizell realized the danger and ran after the car, which was moving slowly, jumping it and at the same time pulling Master Humerick down to the earth,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The boys hit the ground, rolled, and climbed to their feet unharmed. Meanwhile, the baggage car continued just a short distance before it hit an embankment. They watched the baggage car “smash over the embankment into a tree. The large tree hit in just the place where Humerick was standing on the car and eyewitnesses say that had the young boy held his place he would have been badly mangled if not killed outright,” published the Catoctin Clarion.

Frizell spent the week afterwards being praised by his friends as a hero. The newspaper said the praise was rightly deserved because “it was not only a brave deed but showed that his mind was working fast to take in the situation.

The incident was investigated and it was found that after the train had stopped at St. Joseph’s College Station without incident on its way to the end of the line at the Emmitsburg station, it was believed that while the conductor was helping passengers off the train at St. Joseph’s College, someone had uncoupled the cars. The train had left the station heading for Emmitsburg, but the baggage car had separated from the rest of the train on an incline.

The car suffered some damage in the accident, but it was expected to be repaired and put back in service. None of the baggage in the car was lost or damaged.

The Emmitsburg Railroad stopped its service in 1940 due to more attractive business options, such as car travel.

by James Rada, Jr.

1909Emmitsburg’s Third Great Fire

Emmitsburg has a long history of both fires and fire protection. The Great Emmitsburg Fire of 1863 is considered the most serious fire in the town’s history. By the time the flames sputtered out, twenty-eight houses and nine businesses had been damaged or destroyed. Three of the four corners of the town square were black with fire, and three of the towns four blocks were fire damaged. Other reports put the number of damaged buildings at fifty, and half of the town destroyed. In actuality, probably about a quarter of the town burned, based on a population of slightly less than 1,000.

Firefighting efforts improved in 1884, when water from the town’s newly built reservoir was piped under the street to fire hydrants. This provided a more-dependable supply of water to the engines.

When the reservoir was dug and the water lines put in, The Emmitsburg Chronicle reported, “When it is considered that the reservoir is located 224 feet above the level of the square, any person can estimate the advantages that must accrue to the village when the improvement is completed. With proper hose at hand, it will scarce be possible for any great fire to occur here, and this security lessening the risks, must diminish the rates of insurance, and we trust that in due time the water power will be availed of for manufacturing purposes.”

Unfortunately, this did not prove to be true, because Emmitsburg had its second great fire the following year.

Fire broke out in St. Joseph’s College just before noon on March 20, 1885, and quickly spread. Fighting fires in the large college buildings was too much for the firefighters with Vigilant Hose Company, who were doing “grand work, but their efforts were of course unequal to the requirements,” according to The Frederick Daily News. Someone telegraphed for the help of fire companies from Frederick and Hagerstown. At the time, St. Joseph’s College was valued at $1 million and the total damage calculated at about $60,000.

What could be considered Emmitsburg’s third most-serious fire happened in December 1909, just days before Christmas. Shortly before noon, the roof of the Rowe property caught fire, which at the time was occupied by the Home Bakery, Harry Hopp, and Mr. Peters.

“The alarm was sounded, but by the time a stream of water could be made to play on the burning roof, the adjoining properties, the Reformed Church parsonage and the house occupied by Mrs. Virginia Gillelan were ablaze,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

Vigilant Hose Company combated the fire, but “A high wind aided the flames, and for a time it was thought that nothing could be done to save the Rowe property, although every effort was being made in that direction.”

Lulu Patterson then discovered that the Motter building occupied by Motter and Ruth Gillelan’s store was on fire. This split the efforts of the fire company as they now battled two fires. If that wasn’t enough, it was then discovered that the homes of H.W. Eyster and George T. Eyster were also on fire.

The firefighters didn’t give up, though.

“Inside of an hour, the flames had been overcome and Emmitsburg, at least part of it, was saved,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

In all, ten buildings were lost or damaged in the blaze.